F&B

Yak Throwback: Kitchen Maestros

We look back to issue 26 of The Yak Magazine and our feature on Bali’s kitchens maestros. Where are they now?

Somebody once said that “cookery has become a noble art, a noble science; cooks are gentlemen”. More than that, what a good cook can produce in the kitchen and present to you on a plate is the equal of any Mona Lisa or Starry Night in terms of creative talent and artistry. Only infinitely more palatable and a lot more immediate in satisfying the senses. Eat your heart out, da Vinci and van Gogh, there’s a new breed of artist in town: all hail the chef. Hannah James speaks to seven of Bali’s best. Photography by Dustin Humphrey.

It was famous French chef and restaurateur Marcel Boulestin who proclaimed that “cookery is not chemistry. It is an art.” Something which requires “instinct and taste rather than exact measurements.” Something which also requires imagination, passion and a different way of looking at simple ingredients. We’re sure the chefs featured on these pages would agree.

What’s more, whoever tries to tell you that ‘music be the food of life’ clearly has never eaten from the kitchen of one of these culinary maestros chefs with a grand passion for food, glorious food, and the art of cooking because if he or she had, they’d know that food be the food of life. Like, duh.

Not just any food can lay claim to that honour, mind you. Some food is mere sustenance for the body. For food to be sustenance for the soul too, it needs to be approached with some sort of reverence; a sense of wonder – flavours lovingly coaxed out of every ingredient, no matter how everyday or seemingly ordinary; a certain adherence to discipline; a commitment to simplicity, allowing the ingredients to speak for themselves…and a set of very sharp knives. Who better to explain this ‘food as art’ concept, though, than the chefs themselves…

*Phillip Davenport, Ku De Ta

Years in the kitchen: 15

Most interesting kitchen ever worked in: Gordon Ramsey’s kitchen in London for two days. Just seeing that high level of food was very interesting to me.

Cooking is without doubt an art… Describe the art you produce in your kitchen: We try and keep up with what’s going on in the world in terms of new techniques and styles, so I think our food art is at quite a high and interesting standard, especially our specials.

Signature dish/style: We cook very worldly food so it is hard to pin point our signature or style. But definitely come and try the tartare, scampi, lamb or duck.

Things I hate in the kitchen… Laziness and short cuts.

Things I love in the kitchen… The pressure, the theatre of a service, and the beer afterwards.

My philosophy on food is… Clean and simple with a twist.

Davenport (left), and the late Brandon Huisman, RIP.

*Brandon Huisman, 33, The Balé

Years in the kitchen: 14

Most interesting kitchen ever worked in: Amankora, Kingdom of Bhutan. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would lead a kitchen in the depths of the Himalayas. During yak season, we would hike to a 16th Century dilapidated dzong (Buddhist temple) where I would choose the youngest and healthiest yaks that were then slaughtered by a half-drunken Tibetan man. After aging the sides of the adrenaline-pumped muscle tissue, we would break them down and process the entire yak leaving nothing to spare. Our menus were filled with endless variations of the hairy beast… like braised yak short ribs, grilled yak filet, yak carpaccio, yak kielbasa, yak jerky, yak burgers, yak chili, corned yak, yak bourguignon… you get the idea.

Cooking is without doubt an art… Describe the art you produce in your kitchen:

I try to balance flavours with contrasting textures to create delicious and memorable dishes. Because, honestly speaking, after the first bite or two, the art of the plate is gone and the tastiness of your dish is what is remembered.

Signature dish/style: I never like this question. It’s like asking a parent to pick their favourite child; you can’t. You love them all equally.

Things I hate in the kitchen… I never understood the need for arrogance and intimidation, anywhere. Unfortunately, these are common attributes in many kitchens and seem to be even more pronounced the more professionally recognized  the establishment. Ironic!

Things I love in the kitchen… Instant gratification; when you know you went above and beyond the expectation of the guest and created a lasting memory.

My philosophy on food… My culinary philosophy derives from a process. I look at the region and the ingredients that flourish there. I then rebuild those ingredients on a plate, in my own interpretation.

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*Michele Greggio, 34, Jimbaran Puri Bali

Years in the kitchen: 16

Most interesting kitchen ever worked in: Four Seasons, Berlin. It was my first experience outside my home country, a multicultural kitchen with staff from all around the world. And the chef there was the one who allowed me to discover the culinary ‘art’.

Cooking is without doubt an art… Describe the art you produce in your kitchen: Contemporary art, combining Western techniques with local spices to showcase my personal brand of culinary innovation.

Signature dish/style: Caramelized Curried Scallops on spinach cream with organic herbs and Parma ham just to name one. My style is to breathe in the freshness of the seasonal ingredients and then add an innovative twist.

Things I hate in the kitchen… Taking short cuts on the job and not following set directions.

Things I love in the kitchen… Care for the work and the gratification I feel when I see my young chefs learning my style with passion.

My philosophy on food is… It is my belief that the simplicity of using fine ingredients that have been lovingly created is the key to great cooking. Working with organic farmers who value the earth and the body has taught me so much. Most of all, I have learned that we really are what we eat. I believe in putting positive energy into food.

Greggio (left) and Faggioli.

*Giordano Faggioli, 42, Ayana Resort and Spa Bali

Years in the kitchen: 24, including pot and dishwashing and at the counter gutting fish!

Most interesting kitchen ever worked in: My home when cooking for family and friends, because I get to join the meal.

Cooking is without doubt an art… Describe the art you produce in your kitchen: An excellent balance of emotions.

Signature dish/style: I don’t have a signature dish, but I definitely have a style which is cooking without altering the original flavours of the ingredients I am using to create or prepare a dish.

Things I hate in the kitchen… Compromising.

Things I love in the kitchen… The service time with its rush and adrenaline.

My philosophy on food is… Fresh, simple, authentic… served with an original approach.

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Simon Blaby.

*Simon Robert Blaby, 38, Karma Kandara Resort

Years in the kitchen: 24.

Most interesting kitchen ever worked in: A kitchen in a Thai restaurant… small, hot and the oven had burnt a hole through the floor. The food was rather good though.

Cooking is without doubt an art… Describe the art you produce in your kitchen: Jackson Pollock… messy to make but ultimately satisfying to take in.

Signature dish/style: Dish – our seafood tasting platter. As far as style goes I used to own a pair of corduroy trousers which I refused to give up because I thought they were stylish. I’ve said too much.

Things I hate in the kitchen… Food being over-handled, tricky garnishes and blunt knives.

Things I love in the kitchen… As Hannibal from the A-Team says “I love it when a plan comes together.” Me too. And sharp knives.

My philosophy on food is… As I am somewhat of a culinary Luddite, I reckon you should take beautiful produce and not do too much to it. An apple should still taste like an apple.

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*Dean Keddell, 39, The Samaya(s), Bali – Ubud and Seminyak

Years in the kitchen: 25

Most interesting kitchen you’ve ever worked in: All Saints, Nottinghill, England. It was my first Exec Chef position and we received 2 out of 3 Stars from Fay Maschler (London Evening Standard)! We were also cooking for rock stars like Nick Cave, U2, Sinead O’Connor, Kylie etc… The best start to running a kitchen I could ever have imagined!

Cooking is without doubt an art… Describe the art you produce in your kitchen: I aim to celebrate the diversity of food. This never changes but my style and technique does. Food must always reflect the surrounding environment. My cuisine is ‘modern eclectic’, focusing strongly on local organic produce and flavours. Seafood dominates at the moment as that as the perfect fare to enjoy on an island paradise.

Signature dish/style: Tropical baby lobster, octopus, asparagus, potato, orange, lemongrass, coriander…

Things I hate in the kitchen… People who ask for half of their steak medium rare and the other half well done. Or worse: ordering one soup and asking it to be divided in to four bowls!

Things I love in the kitchen… Food, food, food.

My philosophy on food is… My desire is to create true culinary adventures and ever lasting memories. As a Chef I strive to be at the forefront of the pursuit of culinary excellence and as such my dishes will always be constantly evolving.

Keddell (left) and Magaem.

*Mateu Batista Magaem, Anantara Seminyak Bali & Hostal Sa Tuna, Costa Brava, Catalonia, Spain

Years in the kitchen: 25 Years

Most interesting kitchen you’ve ever worked in: My current kitchen, Sa Tuna. It’s by far the most interesting because, as a professional chef, this establishment and kitchen has enabled me to deliver some of the highest levels of cuisine presentation in my career. Conditions are fantastic! It is also rare to work with a boss who really invests his personal effort and finances into developing my career and to make sure I have the right resources to deliver fantastic traditional Catalonian cuisine with a touch of modern influence and Mateo magic.

Cooking is without doubt an art… Describe the art you produce in your kitchen: I guess it comes down to my motivation, which is my happiness for my customers. My Art comes from my passion for creating a great surprise for guests: through the use of colours, flavours, textures and taste. I put the time in because it is truly my passion to love food, eat food and give people the real authentic flavour of my country. In tangible terms, sourcing the best ingredients is the difference to making great art or not!

Signature dish/style: I have many dishes on my menu which are fantastic, however my particular favourite style, whether for guests or for myself at home, is to simply take any meat I feel like eating and prepare it wood fired. In particular wood fired seafood… Lobster, prawns, whole fish finished with a Spanish olive oil and Mediterranean crystal salt. Fantastic and very simple!

Things I hate in the kitchen… Colleagues, who are not passionate. No thanks! In my kitchen you need to share the passion or you need to work somewhere else.

Things I love in the kitchen… All. It is my life. I don’t work like a ‘chef’, I work like a cook! The kitchen is my life, and food is my passion, my wife, my brother, my family. My love for the kitchen and food is so much a part of me it is hard to separate.

My philosophy on food is… The only thing necessary in life. Making food for people is my life and business, and the food in my life is my partner. Food should bring people together and I love helping the process happen.

Did you love this post? Then checkout some of our other Throwback stories from The Yak – back in the day.

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